Who's a bully? | Arkansas Blog

Friday, April 25, 2008

Who's a bully?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 2:43 PM

[image-1]Jay P. Greene, Walton endowed professor of school vouchers and union busting at  Walton University-Fayetteville, is blogging. Recent topics include a number close to his pocketbook. But a post yesterday dealt with a New York Times story -- mentioned here while I was on vacation, I think -- about a Fayetteville high school student whose parents sued over the bullying of their son. Greene recounts subsequent local news accounts that the victim is said to be a bully himself.  The school district managed to get that word out as a way to squelch impact of the Times story.

Greene is careful, eventually, to say, (unlike at least one other commentator I've read on the subject), that he is NOT saying the young man deserved what he got.  The villain in his  piece is that ol' debbil  New York Times. Greene has filed a complaint with the Times' public editor over the reporting, he writes. But he also says this:

But the more complicated picture that emerges after learning of the information in the Nothwest Arkansas Times but excluded from the NYT, is one that looks like school fighting and conflict and not necessarily bullying.  Bullying implies a relatively clear hierarchy of victim and assailant.

I'm not buying. Being the butt of regular bullying might turn someone into a bully, too, albeit one who chooses his victims farther down the pecking order. (Don't all bullies pick on weaker targets? Isn't there generally a clear hierarchy of the picker and the picked-on?) Everyone involved in this sad episode might well be a victim of bullying. The school district might be doubly, rather than singly, deficient in preventing it. 

I'm also not ready to accept Greene's suggestion that conflict and fighting are unworthy of news coverage. A pervasive atmosphere of demeaning comments, lunch money hustling, towel popping, skull-rapping with senior rings and all the rest is an atmosphere that says the inmates are in charge of the asylum. I'm NOT saying that's the case in Fayetteville. But Greene's seemingly benign view of high school thuggery strikes me as a most unWalton-like point of view, except on the happy occasion when it can be turned against an icon of the liberal media.

Speaking of pecking orders: I found Greene's comment through its citation on the widely read Gawker, also focusing on the rest of the story uncovered after the Times' initial account.

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